Virtual Programming: Virtual Round Tables

Virtual round tables are less formal and structured than a webinar, and typically don't contain content that is shared by a speaker. A committee member or other serves as faciliator, guiding the discussion and providing seed questions to the group as needed. Questions can be solicited from attendees in advnace if desired, but the focus is open dialogue. Round tables typically do not have a speaker who shares content with attendees or require a lot of advance prepwork.

Typical scenarios that lend themselves to a round table:

  • Among niche groups when the audience will be relatively small and/or the topic is specific and focused. An example is an employer roundtable, or a directors roundtable to discuss a specific issue such as business school rankings.
  • When the topic lends itself to a more relaxed, unstructured atmosphere with lots of sharing among attendees. In these cases, the topic and audience can be more broad.


Pre-Event Planning

  1. Along with the Virtual Programming Committee, determine the topic for the round table based on the organization’s strategic priorities, member feedback, current industry trends and committee input. Unlike the webinars, virtual round tables are often developed as needed based on current market trends and member needs, and therefore they don't need to be advertised as far in advance. The typical timeframe to advertise a round talbe is two weeks in advance. 
  2. Create the round table title and description, and send it to the Executive Director and Committee Chair for feedback. 
  3. Work with the Executive Director to select a date. Events are typically scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at 11 am EST to maximize attendnace for all time zones. The time can be shifted slightly if needed, based on faciliator availability.
  4. Once all information is final, enter it into the session tracking sheet. and let the Executive Director know it has been entered. 
  5. Once the event registration is live on the web site, be sure to register for the event so you will receive the login details in the confirmation email. 
  6. Prepare at least five questions about the topic to serve as seed questions in case the attendees don't have a lot to say.
  7. Let the Executive Director know which, if any, interactive tools you want to use during the round table, including:
    • Polls
    • Breakout rooms
    • White board
    • Screen sharing
  8. The Executive Director will send you the estimated attendance numbers about a week in advance of the event. If more than 40 attendees are expected, breakout rooms are recommended. If these will be used, select faciliators for each room and send them the questions in advance. Facilitators can be selected from the committee or elsewhere, depending on your preference. The number of rooms used will depend on attendance. Five to six attendees are recommended per breakout room.
  9. MBA CSEA staff will send a reminder to all registrants with the login details the day of the event. They will also send the RSVP list and any last minute reminders to the faciliator.
 

During the Event - Your Role as Facilitator

As a facilitator, you do not need to have any special technical expertise or familiarity with the software. The Executive Director or Administrative Assistant will log in as host handle all technical/administrative aspects of the event. This includes: recording the event, muting callers as needed due to background noise, and setting up breakout rooms if needed. 
 
  1. Log in to the Round Table 15 minutes in advance (along with the Executive Director/Administrative Assistant), using the login information that is in the confirmation email you received when you registered for the event (there is no separate login for facilitators).
  2. Introduce the topic at the beginning, and welcome people to the event (see sample script below).
  3. Ask questions to get the conversation started and keep it going. If needed, call on individuals to ask for their expertise or input. Keep an eye on the chat, as some people will ask questions and provide comments there (especially with larger groups). Make sure one or two people don't dominate the conversation.
  4. Close out the event at the end, thanking the speaker(s) and making any necessary announcements (see sample script below)


Facilitation Tips
 

  • Try to engage everyone in the group as much as possible. This can be done by encouraging conversation in the chat, using breakout rooms for groups larger than 40, or asking questions like "Has everyone had a chance to contribute?"
  • Ask questions for people to respond to in the chat. This works well with groups larger than 20 when it will take a long time for everyone to respond using audio.
  • Use screen sharing when there are lengthy questions, but use it minimally so that attendees can see each other.
  • Use polls (let the Executive Director know the questions in advance).
  • Encourage attendees to use the virtual interaction tools, such as hand clapping or thumbs up.
  • Use the whiteboard option in Zoom, and allow people to add their own contributions through the annotate function. 
  • MBA CSEA also has accounts with Kahoot and Mentimeter that can be used if planned in advance.
  • Introductions are not recommended because of the amount of time they take. If desired, ask attendees to introduce themselves in the chat.
  • If breakout groups are used, allow people to switch groups at least once. 
  • Tell a personal story in the beginning that relates to the round table topic. 
  • If the group doesn't seem engaged, do a quick stretch break half way through.
     

Sample Scripts

Introduction

Good morning! This is [name] from  [insert university or organization] I am a member of the MBA CSEA Virtual Programming Committee.  Welcome to all of our virtual round table participants. We're excited to get started today with a converstaion about [topic].(feel free to add more details about why the topic was selected, if desired).

I have few technology pointers before we get started.
  • In order to avoid disruptions and background noise, please mute your audio when you are not speaking. If we hear background noise, we will mute you on the back end. .
  • To ask a question or contribute to the discussion, please unmute your audio and/or use the chat function, which can be found on the bottom of your screen.
  • This meeting is being recorded, and it will be available in the Document Library, which can be accesed through your login at: www.mbacsea.org.
Closing

Thank you for your participation and contributions to this discussion! We look forward to seeing you at future MBA CSEA events. We have the following coming up: [check the event calendar and list all upcoming events in the next month].

Please feel free to reach out to our Executive Director if you have any feedback about this event or ideas for future topics.